I am reading a book about a book club, populated by women more intent on eating, dishing out on each other and talking about sex than actually discussing books. The premise is an excuse for some thrilling adventures on the part of the first person voice narrator, and for dropping the titles of some high-brow tomes.
Book clubs are mostly an exquisite female idea – with food and wine thrown in the mix – as if we needed a book to find reasons to get together.
I have given the book club a try more than once and I have come to the conclusion that I must be one of those people who thinks of reading as an intensely solitary adventure.
I see the rules of a book club as constraints instead of a nudge towards adventure: the allotted time given to read; being forced to read authors chosen by others and having to cook when it comes discussion time. I know. It’s clearly me. But, believe me, I tried. Three times.
What ends up happening is that, after a couple of suggestions I cannot get through for a variety of reasons, I start resenting the whole affair. I guess it boils down to “I want to read what I want to read whenever I feel like it.” There. I said it. I am a selfish reader.
And, yet, I love discussing books with my friends, exchanging recommendations (which I am free to follow or not) and, above all, I love buying books for people: trying to imagine what could draw them in, what would excite them and zero in on just the perfect title.
Mostly, I love discovering books – a friend’s exciting post on Facebook that intrigues me enough to click on Amazon; a second-hand paperback bought for a few dollars, just because I loved the cover; a gift from someone who knows me; a book left behind on a plane or a rented apartment.
Books enter and exit my days in a fluid continuum. It cannot be that, because it’s November, we have to read Jane’s suggestion.
While I was writing this post, I came across this paragraph that Doris Lessing wrote as part of her introduction to The Golden Notebook, in 1971, and that really resonated:
There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag — and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty — and vice-versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.
Above all, I love receiving obscure recommendations. So: what have you read recently that was weird and wonderful and unexpected?